By Representative Phil Gingrey
The Supreme Court may have ruled it constitutional, but Obamacare remains a disastrous, un-American law. In upholding President Obama's health care mandate by deeming its noncompliance penalty a tax, the Supreme Court effectively rewrote the bill.
As Justices Samuel Anthony Alito Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas stated in their dissenting opinion, "to say that the Individual Mandate merely imposes a tax is not to interpret the statute but to rewrite it. Judicial tax-writing is particularly troubling." I wholeheartedly agree.
Many had warned to watch for judicial activism in this ruling, yet few suspected the court would uphold Obamacare by deeming the penalty a tax - despite the intent of the president and congressional Democrats to justify the law via the Commerce Clause and not through Congress" tax-writing power. The president's justification for his health care agenda was the exact opposite. He repeatedly stated that his law would not be a tax.
The court's decision will impact Americans as the president intended, however, by forcing them to purchase a product or pay a price. There is little difference, in practical terms, between the president deeming that price a penalty and the court deeming it a tax.
Obamacare amounts to the largest tax increase on the middle class in American history and portends to be an unmitigated disaster for small businesses and our sluggish economy. Along with billions in new taxes, the law includes some of the most anti-growth provisions on the books. In fact, since Democrats passed Obamacare, businesses have struggled to keep their doors open because of its onerous tax burden and regulations. The employer mandate, intended to guarantee that employers offer health coverage, has instead become the major reason businesses cite for no longer providing health benefits to employees.
It's easy to see how the law accomplishes the exact opposite of everything the president promised and how it will wreak havoc on our health care system. It raises taxes and premiums, encroaches upon citizens' freedom of choice, and results in less access for seniors, children and the poor. By gutting $500 billion from Medicare, it makes it more difficult for the most vulnerable Americans - Medicare and Medicaid patients - to access quality care. As a practicing physician for more than 30 years, I consider denying care to the sickest patients abhorrent.
Take, for instance, Obamacare's "cost-cutting" Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, which has the power to ration care for millions of seniors. Unless Congress can find equivalent savings, this 15-member board will mandate automatic Medicare cuts. IPAB board members aren't required to be doctors or have any medical experience. This panel is dangerous for many reasons, but above all, it drives a wedge between physicians and their patients. Health care decisions should be weighed carefully by patients, their family members and their doctors - not by Washington bureaucrats.
Along with patients, taxpayers and businesses, states also will struggle under the president's law. Obamacare's Medicaid expansion provision imposes significant financial burdens on states, particularly poorer ones. States such as Georgia, which requires a balanced budget by law, will be forced to cut funding elsewhere, such as education or infrastructure investment. Requests by governors of both parties for greater flexibility in determining Medicaid eligibility have fallen on deaf ears.
In response, I've introduced H.R. 1683, the State Flexibility Act, which fully repeals these onerous regulations and allows states to take responsible, common-sense steps to balance their budgets while simultaneously lowering federal entitlement spending.
My first priority is to repeal this law in its entirety. Health care costs in this country are too high, but the federal takeover of one-sixth of our economy is not the answer. Patients should have more control of their insurance decisions, and reform should be driven on the state level.
Rather than rushing through legislation that we have to read to "find out what's in it," Republicans will take a thoughtful, measured approach to increasing access and quality of care to patients, without giving control to bureaucrats.